You need several factors and measurements to answer this common question: “How much should I weigh?” The answer can help you find your healthiest weight.
If you wonder “how much should I weigh” in order to be as thin as a model — or if your goal is to fit into a certain size of clothing — you aren’t approaching the question correctly.
Instead of trying to achieve a specific look or aiming to squeeze into skinny jeans, your goal should be a weight that’s healthy and optimum for you, personally.
After all, there’s no one-size-fits all when it comes to an ideal weight, even for a certain height. You must consider other factors, including your body fat distribution, sex, and ratio of fat to muscle.
Learning the answer to “how much should I weigh” and using the information to achieve and maintain your optimum body weight is important to staying healthy, the National Heart, Blood and Lung (NHBLI) Institute points out.
Being overweight is common in the U.S., where almost 40 percent of Americans fall into the category of obesity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — and excess pounds significantly raise the risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, high blood cholesterol, and heart disease.
What your waist circumference means about your weight
Stepping on scales to weigh yourself won’t necessarily reveal if you are at your healthiest weight. For example, some of your weight may be the result of too much fat around your middle, a sign of visceral fat that accumulates in spaces between the abdominal organs. It’s linked to low-level inflammation and raises the risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Your waistline can expand by inches as visceral fat pushes out against the abdominal wall. Even if the scales haven’t budged, an unhealthy waist circumference can mean you have too much weight from visceral fat.
That’s why a do-it-yourself waist circumference “gut check” can help you determine if you need to take action. With exercise, you can reduce the fat while building muscle (which weighs more than fat, by the way).
To check your waist circumference accurately, follow this advice from the CDC:
- While standing, place a tape measure around your middle, above your hipbones.
- Make sure the tape is horizontal around your waist and keep it snug but not tight.
- Don’t hold in your stomach. Breathe out normally and take note of your waist measurement.
If you are a man with a waist measuring more than 40 inches, or a non-pregnant woman whose waist circumference is more than 35 inches, you have too much belly fat for optimum health. Use this information to work with your doctor on a plan to lose the excess fat and arrive at your healthiest weight.
Your BMI is important weight information
Your body mass index (BMI)[DE4] is another do-it-yourself measurement to help you answer the question “how much should I weigh.” It provides information on whether your current weight is in the healthy range, or not.
Your BMI is defined as your body weight in relation to your height. To find yours, simply measure how tall you are and enter your height, in inches, along with how much you weigh on the CDC’s online BMI calculator. You can also find your BMI by locating your height and weight on the NHLBI’s BMI chart.
A BMI of 25 to 29.9 indicates having excess body weight. A BMI of 30 or above falls into the obesity classification and, almost always, reveals a large amount of body fat in relation to height.
Talk to your doctor about any weight concerns
The NHLBI provides an online chart where you can find your BMI and see a range of weight that indicates normal, overweight, or obese classification. You’ll see there’s not a single right answer to the question “how much should I weigh” that fits all people.
For example, a person who is five feet, eight inches tall can weigh between 125 and 158 and be in the normal range, depending on the amount of body fat and muscle, sex, age, and other individual differences.
And, although a BMI usually indicates obesity, large, heavily muscled athletes can have a BMI over 30 but still have a healthy body composition, the NHLBI points out.
In addition, while being underweight is not common in the U.S., it can occur, and some people may need to gain or regain weight after a serious illness. Elders who have unintentionally lost weight may also be frail and need help gaining weight. However, other people can be naturally slimmer than others and be healthy, with no disease or reason to work to gain weight. Genetics play a major role in physical build, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics points out, and if you are thin but healthy, with a lower than normal BMI, this may be totally normal for you.
Bottom line: Discuss your weight concerns with your doctor to make sure you are at the healthiest weight for you. And, if you aren’t, learn how to safely reach your weight goal.
September 19, 2019
Janet O’Dell, RN